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Thursday 23 February 2017

News: £1.6M secures historical treasure for Scotland

Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson has announced that a priceless collection of historical documents has been secured for Scotland.

The Dalhousie papers cover 900 years of Scotland's history and its people, and how Scots have influenced the wider world.

The Scottish Government and the National Heritage Memorial Fund ' the UK fund of last resort - are both contributing £800,000 towards the total cost of securing the collection for the National Archives of Scotland (NAS).

George MacKenzie, the Keeper of the Records of Scotland holds the 15th century history of Scotland, the Scotichronicon, NAS ref. GD45/26/48

Ms Ferguson, said: 'The Dalhousie papers are of outstanding importance to the history of this country covering nearly 900 years of Scottish history. I'm also pleased that the National Archives of Scotland will be using the latest digital technology to open this collection to an ever widening public, both at home and abroad.

George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland said: 'This wonderful news has secured the long-term future of this marvellous collection. We are grateful that the Dalhousie family offered us the first chance to acquire the collection when they decided to sell it. The Dalhousie papers have been extensively used by readers since they were first loaned to us, and now that they have been acquired for the nation we will be working to make them even more widely available'.

Stephen Johnson, Head of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: 'This archive contains a wealth of information, not only giving an insight into Scotland's history, but also the history of the British Empire and wider Commonwealth. We're delighted we've been able to join forces to make sure this collection remains available for future generations to learn from and enjoy.'

Highlights from the large quantity of Dalhousie papers include:

  • The earliest Scottish charter still in Scotland, made about 1127 by King David I, part of the monastic charters for Holyrood.

  • A manuscript of Scotichronicon, a 15th century history of Scotland, unique for its illuminated initial letters and additional notes. View a page from the Scotichronicon.

  • A manuscript history of Norway, Historia Norvegiae, copied in Scotland in 1510, contains the earliest surviving account of the Norse settlement of Orkney and reports a myth that the Picts built towns morning and evening but hid in underground chambers at midday. View a page from the Historia Norvegiae.

  • Papers on the Darien expeditions of the 1690s and the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.

  • The papers of General John Forbes who fought in the American War (1757-63) include seven letters from George Washington. View a letter written by George Washington.

  • The papers of the 9th Earl of Dalhousie as Governor in Chief of Canada (1820-1828) and Commander in Chief in India (1829-32) and of the 10th Earl, who was Governor General of India, 1845-56.

  • The papers of Fox Maule as Secretary for War (1855-58) covering the Crimean War, including remarkable letters from Florence Nightingale. View a memorandum written by Florence Nightingale.

Educational opportunities
The Scottish Government has provided funding to extend public access to the papers. This will include the preparation of materials for schools to support a 'Curriculum for Excellence'. They will contribute towards integrating heritage learning into the curriculum, so ensuring all Scottish children can learn about their past and begin to understand their own position in relation to it. Involvement with original historical documents gives power and immediacy to the learning experience.

Images of some of the Dalhousie papers:

Below is part of a page from the Scotichronicon, a remarkable mid-15th century chronicle of Scotland written in Latin by Walter Bower (1385-1449), abbot of Inchcolm. It covers Scottish (and to a degree general) history from the earliest times to Bower's day. This page shows a typical list of chapters at the start of one of the 16 books within the history and one decorated initial letter. Immediately above the initial letter is Bower's strapline (as we might call it):

Non Scotus est Christe qui liber non placet iste
Translation: Christ! He is not a Scot who is not pleased with this book

The manuscript was certainly in the possession of the earls of Panmure by 1734, and thence by descent to the earls of Dalhousie.

Part of a page from the Scotichronicon, 1481, NAS ref. GD45/26/48
Scotichronicon, 1481 NAS ref. GD45/26/48

Historiae Norvegiae
The history of Norway - Historia Norvegiae - was, in its original form, a late 12th century document. The excerpt shown below is from the only surviving copy and is Scottish not Norwegian in origin. It is thought that it was written for a bishop of Orkney. From the style of handwriting it would appear that it was written about 1510. This section is the start of an account of the Orkney Islands (part of the kingdom of Norway until 1468-9) and its inhabitants, the first of whom were 'Pents' (ie Picts) and 'Papes'. It states that the Picts were little taller than pygmies, they built towns morning and evening but at midday because they became so weak they hid in underground chambers. According to the manuscript the Picts (and the Papes) were driven out by the Vikings.

In 1700, the manuscript was owned by Rev Robert Norie of Dundee. It is not clear how it then passed to the earls of Dalhousie, but they certainly owned it by 1849.

Part of the Historia Norvegiae, c1510, NAS ref. GD45/31/1
Historiae Norvegiae, c1510, NAS ref. GD45/31/1

Washington letter
The following image is of a letter from Colonel George Washington at Fort Loudon to Brigadier John Forbes, written 4 May 1758. The letter recounts the reconnaissance activities of British forces around the French-held Fort Dusquesne on the Ohio River. Washington has examined an Indian warrior who has brought in some scalps. The man had crossed the River Monongahela and had landed near Fort Dusquesne, where he and another had hidden to

make discoveries and if possible get a prisoner but no favourable opportunity offering to accomplish the latter they attackd a canoe in which two Frenchmen were fishing both of whom they killd and scalpd in sight of some other Frenchmen also a fishing.

In an earlier letter of 12 April 1758, also in the Dalhousie collection, Washington remarks that

Great pains has already been taken to encourage the Indian scouts to preserve their prisoners.

This letter is one of a major group of papers on the American Campaign, 1757-9, which belonged to Brigadier John Forbes and which came to the Dalhousie famiy by marriage.

Letter from George Washington to John Forbes, 4 May 1758, NAS ref. GD45/2/83/8
Letter from George Washington to John Forbes, 4 May 1758, NAS ref. GD45/2/83/8

Florence Nightingale
This last document is of a memorandum by Florence Nightingale on 'Female Nursing in Army Hospitals', May 1857. It is assumed that she had been asked for her views on introducing female nurses to army hospitals and sets out her forthright views, which an anonymous endorsement describes as 'characteristic & interesting'.

...the experience of every woman admitted to ward service in hospitals where women were not before, is that many lives are annually saved by such admission which would otherwise, in all human probability, be lost. ... 'Sisters of Mercy', as regards the ward service are decorous & kind, & sometimes inefficient & prudish. Nurses are careful, efficient, often decorous, always kind; sometimes drunken, sometimes misconducted.
... It is desirable to simplify and condense, as much as possible, female service in these hospitals. Let there be as few women, & these few as efficient & as respectable as can be. Let all that can really be done by men be so done...The nurses should be strong, active women not less than 30 nor more than 60 years of age, of unblemished character, irreversibly dismissed for the first offence of misconduct, drunkenness, or dishonesty or proved impropriety of any kind.

Fox Maule was Secretary of State for War, 1855-8 and as such was responsible for the direction of British policy in the Crimean War (1854-6). The Dalhousie papers contain many of his papers relating to the war and to the running of the British military. He was a hot-tempered man and on at least one occasion was somewhat dismissive of Florence Nightingale's opinions.

Memorandum by Florence Nightingale on 'Female Nursing in Army Hospitals', May 1857, NAS ref. GD45/8/337/11
Memorandum by Florence Nightingale on 'Female Nursing in Army Hospitals', May 1857, NAS ref. GD45/8/337/11

Consulting the Dalhousie papers
The Dalhousie papers can be searched using our online catalogue and consulted in the Historical Search Room at General Register House.

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